Communication and collaboration

Communication is the key to a great Co-Teaching Partnership. It is like throwing a ball. The purpose is to learn how well others catch information and throw it back. We develop and build relationships by practicing chit chat, e.g., what is your name, where do you live, what are your hobbies, etc. But there are levels of communication beyond chit chat.

As relationships develop and deeper communication is desired, discussing an issue becomes more like tossing a slippery egg. Be careful not to:

  • Save them for a long time and hurl them!
  • Throw them hard and fast because you cannot hold on to those slippery eggs!
  • Avoid the person so that you do not have to toss those slippery eggs.
  • Wrap those slippery eggs with so many layers of expectations and apologies that no one is sure you have tossed them.

Try to recognize when you have the slippery egg and toss it with great care and understanding, being assertive enough to communicate your issues. Always watch body language and tell the truth in a caring manner.

How do you "throw your slippery eggs"?

The following activity presents different role play scenarios for cooperating teachers and teacher candidates.

The cooperating pair, a CT and TC, should work together and take turns discussing the following scenarios. Both CT and TC will have two opportunities to role play different scenarios.

Round 1: cooperating teacher leads

Read the following scenario (don't let your TC peek) and discuss it right now with your TC…


Your teacher candidate is continuously tardy to school.
Address this issue and solve the problem.

Round 2: teacher candidate leads

Read the following scenario (don't let your CT peek) and discuss it right now with your CT…

New ideas

Your cooperating teacher is not allowing you to try new ideas or ways of doing things.
Address this issue and solve the problem.

Round 3: cooperating teacher leads

Read the following scenario (don't let your TC peek) and discuss it right now with your TC…

Co-teaching strategies

Your teacher candidate is reluctant to try all the co-teaching strategies.
Address this issue and solve the problem.

Round 4: teacher candidate leads

Read the following scenario (don't let your CT peek) and discuss it right now with your CT…

Co-planning time

Your cooperating teacher does not use co-planning time to work with you.
Address this issue and solve the problem.

Collaboration Self-Assessment Tool (CSAT)

It is often assumed that people know how to collaborate. However, collaboration skills are rarely identified, let alone taught. When collaborative efforts become strained or are successful, it is important to evaluate our own role in the process. There is a difference between cooperation and collaboration. Collaboration is a philosophy of interactions with the focus on the process of working together; cooperation stresses the product of such work (Myers, 1991).

Below is a self-assessment worksheet.  It will help you reflect on and evaluate your own collaboration skills. The beauty of this self-assessment tool is that we can identify the areas in which we can improve in an effort to become better collaborators. (You do not have to share your scores with your partner.)

Please take some time to complete Collaboration Self-Assessment worksheet (opens new window) (MS Excel). Make sure you save the file to your desktop before entering your responses.

When finished, consider the following:

  • What have you learned about yourself by completing this rubric?
  • When collaboration is ineffective, the following issues are often voiced to justify the situation:
    1. Personal style
    2. Size of the group
    3. Designated role in the group (facilitator, recorder, etc.)
    4. Group history

We challenge you to ask yourself: What is at the heart of these issues? Could citing these variables possibly be a smoke screen to hide the fact that you are not using skills needed for successful collaboration?

*Cross-cultural communication

Often, Cooperating Teachers and Teacher Candidates are from different generations and/or cultures, and these differences often result from significant historical events, cultural trends, and individual experiences. Ultimately, this results in varying world views and attitudes toward the workplace. Communicating with one another is key.

Take a moment and discuss the following questions with your co-teacher:

  • What is one value or belief you learned about communication from your childhood?
  • What is one norm you were taught about how to resolve conflict?
  • What do you wish others knew about your style of communication?
  • What do you need from others when in conflict?

Tips on how to work together across cultures and generations (Krumrey-Fulks; Ting-Toomey, 2012; Fisher-Yoshida, 2005; Mezirow, 2000):

  1. Mindful Listening: Note the cultural/personal assumptions being expressed. Check in that you’re accurately interpreting both the verbal and nonverbal expressions.
  2. Mindful Reframing: Remain in the moment and consider your current perspective, then consider other perspectives to frame what you’re hearing/experiencing/feeling.
  3. Collaborative Dialogue: Build on the mindful listening and reframing to participate in dialogue and work to understand the differences/similarities of what is being communicated with how you’re understanding it.
  4. Culture-based Conflict Resolution Steps: If you’re still feeling in conflict, then you can try to use this 7-step model to “identify the background of a problem, analyze the cultural assumptions and underlying values of a person in a conflict situation, and promote ways to achieve harmony and share a common goal”:
    1. What is my cultural and personal assessment of the problem?
    2. Why did I form this assessment and what is the source of this assessment?
    3. What are the underlying assumptions or values that drive my assessment?
    4. How do I know they are relative or valid in this conflict context?
    5. What reasons might I have for maintaining or changing my underlying conflict premise?
    6. How should I change my cultural or personal premises into the direction that promotes deeper intercultural understanding?
    7. How should I flex adaptively on both verbal and nonverbal conflict style levels in order to display facework sensitive behaviors and to facilitate a productive common-interest outcome? [Facework are communication strategies that people “use to establish, sustain, or restore a preferred social identity to others during interaction” (Samp, 2015). It varies from culture to culture and influences our conflict styles - Krumrey-Fulks shares more examples]

*This section was updated in March 2021 based on user feedback. These new materials are not from St. Cloud University’s original co-teaching training/workshop."

Next: Co-Teaching Planning

Previous: Student Teaching Triad

© 2012, St. Cloud State University. Used with permission by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ Office of Teacher Education (OTE) for the CEHD Partner Network